Armor, a group exhibition at the Center for Visual Art in Denver, explored physical and metaphorical barriers in the art-making process.
July 30–October 16, 2021
Center for Visual Art, Metropolitan State University of Denver
It’s tricky, letting a metaphor drive the theme of an exhibition. Yet it worked for the most part in Armor at the Center for Visual Art, run by Metropolitan State University in Denver’s Santa Fe Arts District. That is, the metaphor works as long as it’s an extended one, evoking not only steely, physical means of bodily protection but also ideas about putting up imaginary barriers and safeguarding oneself through the solace of art making.
A handful of the artists in Armor are Denver based, including Jaime Molina, who explores the more literal sense of the word with foot-high wooden faces covered in nails connoting chainmail. Meanwhile, Skyler McGee subverts the materiality of armor with her paper and textile installation Hide, where a honeycomb effect creates a kind of womb that viewers can step into and practically disappear.
For his part, Ravi Zupa uses steel-derived materials in sculptures that mix typewriter and bookbinding parts to emulate guns. Additionally, he inserts gun-toting birds into clay pots, reminding us that absurdity and humor can be lines of defense. On a different note, the Frankie Toan and Steven Frost installation Denim on Denim suffuses fabric with protective qualities by stretching it into overlapping, brightly embellished shields.
Perhaps the most memorable pieces were those by Erika Diamond, who creates “armor” with eggshell fragments, pieced together like a mosaic. They exude a toughness that defies their original fragility. Nearby was a series of Diamond’s bespoke vests, fashionable and at the same time impermeable, given that they are made with Kevlar.
In all, nine artists were featured, and the corner featuring Diamond’s work was especially attractive. Eggshell Bodice, Eggshell Glove for Shaking Hands, and Eggshell Shirt for Hugging II are understated but exceptional pieces in that they capture the qualities of armor with contradictory materials—affirming the power of metaphor.